Government Nannies Attack Food Trucks

MARCH 9, 2012


A food fight has broken out between a liberal Democratic assemblyman and a liberal Democratic San Francisco supervisor over the banning of food vending trucks near schools. It’s a battle of nanny government officials — with the collateral damage being the livelihoods of mostly minority business people and the appetites of kids who just want something tasty to eat.

Last month Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, introduced AB 1678, which keeps food trucks at least 1,500 feet away from elementary and secondary school campuses from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. when school is in session. The bill’s argument states that food and beverages from the trucks “are calorie rich, nutrient poor, and contribute to negative health outcomes like being overweight and obesity.” The trucks should not be allowed to compete with school-provided breakfasts and lunches, “which are often more nutritious than meals brought from home or served elsewhere.”

In a press release Monning said, “All students deserve access to healthful food. The mobile vending of unhealthful snacks like ice cream, chips and sugar-sweetened beverages near school campuses undermines efforts to provide students with the nutrition they need. At a time when childhood obesity is at epidemic levels, we must ensure that our school environments foster student wellness.”

AB 1678 will likely go before the Assembly Health Committee, which Monning chairs, in late March or early April.


Normally such legislation would be wholeheartedly embraced by San Francisco politicians, who made national headlines in 2010 for banning McDonald’s Happy Meals. But this week Supervisor Scott Wiener, who became a minor sensation himself last year with legislation requiring nude San Franciscans to place a towel under themselves before sitting in public, introduced a resolution opposing AB 1678.

The resolution points out that food trucks contribute to the diversity of San Francisco’s “thriving food scene,” and provide “a way for people without access to significant capital to enter the food industry,” particularly women and immigrants. It notes that in a densely populated city with numerous schools, the 1,500-foot ban, which is about three city blocks, “would dramatically reduce the locations available for food trucks,” placing some neighborhoods largely off-limits and result in a concentration of food trucks in a few areas like the downtown.

The resolution also points out that the 1,500-foot no-food-truck zone is 2½ times larger than the 600 feet that state law requires medical marijuana dispensaries to be away from schools.

“We should be making those decisions locally in San Francisco based on the needs of our urban, dense city,” said Wiener at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “Sacramento should not be imposing a one-size-fits-all solution that applies equally in San Francisco, Orinda, Anaheim. Eighty to 90 percent of the city would be off limits to food trucks if AB 1678 were to pass. It’s critically important that San Francisco make clear that the current form of the legislation is not acceptable to us.”

Wiener decided to postpone consideration of his resolution to March 13, however, to allow time for school officials to weigh in. No school officials spoke at the meeting, but a number of food truck owners, most of whom have Hispanic or Asian accents, did. A woman, who owns what she called “an organic and sustainable food truck,” said, “We do give healthy options. AB 1678 unfairly points out that we are not helping the children and contribute to obesity. I don’t feel that that’s the case. San Francisco needs to be able to make its own choices. This bill does not fit what San Francisco needs.”

San Francisco already has a 1,500-foot no-food-truck zone around middle and high schools. AB 1678 would expand that to include elementary schools. Wiener said he is considering legislation to reduce the distance from high schools to about 500 feet or one city block. He also questions why middle schools should have a no-food-truck zone because they are all closed campuses.

Possible Compromise

Some compromise may be found. Wiener’s resolution, which calls for the state Legislature to reject AB 1678 or at least allow San Francisco and other cities to opt out, may be watered down before it comes back to the board. And Monning, who told the San Francisco Chronicle, “The goal here is not being food Nazis,” said he’s open to tweaking his proposal.

While the fate of AB 1678 has yet to be determined, the larger question is why food trucks, which charge for their food, are viewed as so much of a threat to school breakfasts and lunches, which are provided for free or at minimal cost. The reason is that for several years there has been an effort in California — and now nationwide, thanks to Michelle Obama and the nutrition elite — to force kids to eat “healthy” food, which doesn’t always mean tasty food.

Hot dogs and hamburgers on white buns, pizza with white dough and fatty cheese, baloney sandwiches on white bread, chicken nuggets, corn dogs and nachos — all washed down with chocolate milk — are either verboten or on the endangered food list. Soft drinks and candy have, of course, been illegal on most campuses for years.

Instead the kids must make do with the likes of whole wheat pizza with low-fat cheese and low-sodium sauce, whole wheat spaghetti, whole grain fish nuggets, black bean burgers, jicama, broccoli, kiwi, cauliflower, green beans, carrots and tofu.

Student Rebellion

There was a student rebellion in Los Angeles schools last fall when jambalaya, vegetable curry, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets, and quinoa and black-eyed pea salads were introduced, according to a Los Angeles Times article. Participation in the school lunch program reportedly dropped by thousands of students and underground markets in chips, candy and fast-food burgers sprung up. The article said that as a result of the uprising, the menu was being revised, eliminating some of the more exotic fare and bringing back pizza and daily hamburgers.

The article was inaccurate and overblown, according to Los Angeles Unified School District Food Services Director Dennis Barrett. He acknowledged there were problems early in the fall getting delivery of meat dishes from the district’s food suppliers, resulting in a predominance of vegetarian offerings. The rollout of more exotic fare went through extensive testing and only those dishes receiving 75 percent approval from 30,000 tasters were approved.

“I have never had a year go by that a couple of times a year a group of student say ‘We want this,’” said Barrett in reference to fast-food type offerings. “We really try to work with kids and give them what they want. The number one thing we are working on now is staying with very healthy meals, that’s a direction we will maintain.”

Tasty Food

Most kids, of course, prefer tasty food to healthy food. In addition to the common criticism that whole wheat pizza tends to taste like cardboard, there’s the problem that most school food is prepared in a factory, frozen, stored in a warehouse, shipped to the schools and then heated up to eat. No matter how well done, it’s bound to have less flavor and texture than fresh food made with fresh ingredients, even if it’s provided out of a truck.

So, unless they bring their own food from home, if AB 1678 passes, many students will be forced to eat food they don’t like in the school cafeteria, or buy from an underground candy/fast-food dealer, or walk the three blocks off campus (assuming they’re allowed to leave) in an attempt to find a food truck. If food trucks are banned from school zones, will fast-food restaurants be next?

Nanny Michelle

None of which appears to be a concern of Michelle Obama, et al. Last month the federal government finalized new nutrition standards starting in the 2012-2013 school year for nearly 32 million students. They require schools to serve more fruits and vegetables (including legumes, dark green and orange vegetables every week), switch to whole grains and limit the sodium and calories in each meal.

“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet,” said Michelle Obama. “And when we’re putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria. When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home. We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables.”

But it’s likely that many students will not stomach the changes. When the requirements were being drafted, 430 people registered their opposition, predicting the following:

* They would result in decreased participation in the meal programs because the food offered would not be acceptable to students. Decreased participation rates would lead to decreased revenues, which could lead some schools to stop offering meal service.

* They would result in increased plate waste because of increased portions and the proposed requirement that a reimbursable meal must include a fruit or a vegetable.

* Increased plate waste, increased produce requirements and increased whole grain requirements would result in increased costs for schools which would result in schools having to raise meal prices, which may impact participation rates.

Whether the nannies are in San Francisco, Sacramento or the White House, the governmental meddling in people’s lives — right down to what they put in their mouths — will continue to escalate. You might want to stock up on those Snickers bars before they go the way the way of the incandescent lightbulb.



Write a comment
  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 8 March, 2012, 21:45

    I don’t like food trucks either. They promote a third world atmosphere and hurt people who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to open up restaurants in our communities. I don’t want food trucks parking in the neighborhood and blasting their horns. If they want to get into the food business open up a restaurant. What will the next fad be? Photos with a painted donkey?

    Reply this comment
  2. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 8 March, 2012, 22:18

    Signs of the Times has a story by Dr. Dwight Lundell who says that everything that we’ve been told to do by researchers and doctors to increase cardiovascular health is actually contributing to cardiovascular problems.

    Statins like Lipitor, and low-fat diets do not work, according to this doc. And much of this has been promoted by the government FDA, which also approved Lipitor.

    This doctor said that he has done more than 150,000 open heart surgeries, and the real cause of heart disease is inflammation – much of it caused and increased by our current healthy heart diet.

    “These recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible. The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated.”

    He reported that a diet low in fat and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, causes repeated injury to our blood vessels. “This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.”
    So much for government-approved health and dietary recommendations.
    here is the link:

    – Katy

    Reply this comment
  3. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 8 March, 2012, 22:59

    My guess is that the large majority of American cardiologists and cardio-thoracic surgeons would probably respectfully disagree with Dr. Lundell. Deaths from heart attacks have been measurably reduced since the advent of the statin drugs. And societies that consume more fish, vegetables or the classic Mediterranian diet have significantly lower incidence of heart disease than we do in America. Inflammation is certainly a factor in heart disease and morbidity – but probably synergistic with other disease like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar. Smoking and lack of exercise are big risk factors. It’s been found that men with pear-shaped bodies have a significantly increased risk for heart disease and sudden death. Pear shaped bodies are usually a result of eating too much fat and not getting enough exercise. I am no expert but have studied the medical literature since my family has a history of heart disease.

    Reply this comment
  4. Liz
    Liz 9 March, 2012, 08:22

    Couple of problems with the story that should be addressed before banning food trucks.

    Name me one school that is in session from 6 am to 6 pm.

    If students are leaving campus to go to food trucks, then I think the schools have a bigger problem. Why are they allowing it? What are they going to do when some child gets hurt or killed off campus during school hours? Sounds like a major lawsuit waiting to happen.

    Are there not enough problems in the school systems for politicians and school officials to think about (like educating these kids) before they delve into the ridiculous stuff (like food trucks)?

    Reply this comment
  5. queeg
    queeg 9 March, 2012, 09:34

    They control your schools, they destroyed morals, they rule your health care, they seperate us into miserable little groups and THEY WILL CONTROL WHERE, WHAT. WHEN you eat…

    What a bunch of saps!!!!

    Reply this comment
  6. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 March, 2012, 11:16

    Most of these kids get free breakfast, lunch and dinner at their schools anyway, right? Why would they use a food truck when the taxpayers pay for all their food? Do food trucks accept food stamps?

    Reply this comment
  7. SactoMoFo
    SactoMoFo 9 March, 2012, 15:52

    Last night, Assm. Monning made a few amendments to #AB1678 in order to stem the massive tide of public opinion casting him as an enemy of commerce – and of small business especially – in California. There are a number of new provisions to the bill (such as a 500 foot no-sell zone, instead of the previously-proposed 1500 foot radius), all added specifically to fool the public into believing that there is some actual legitimate foundation to this legislation.

    Unfortunately, no matter how much Assemblyman Monning caves on this, there is still one simple truth that invalidates the bill in its entirety: there is no data available whatsoever to prove that availability of unhealthy food (outside of the home) actually correlates in any statistically significant way with obesity. In fact, RAND recently found that that there no identifiable causal relationship between having food trucks around schools – or vending machines, for that matter – and students being overweight.

    Californians should absolutely never stand for a law being introduced without any science – without even a shred of data! – to back it up. This is bad lawmaking and bad science, it’s anti-intellectual and irrational. There is nothing about this bill that can be accurately said to be helpful for anyone. The fact that Monning’s office and the CFPA have spent so much time defending something like this, without even the slightest understanding of the link between accurate scientific methods and lawmaking, is mind-boggling. It’s just a tremendous amount of waste by otherwise intelligent people who could be putting their energies toward helping Californians.

    Childhood obesity is a serious issue. Let’s not try to deal with it by passing “feel good” legislation that does nothing to address its root causes.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex The Wonder Dog!
    Rex The Wonder Dog! 9 March, 2012, 18:17

    Most of these kids get free breakfast, lunch and dinner at their schools anyway, right?

    Only breakfest and lunch for free, and in poor areas it is 95% of the students. You do not even want to ask what the costs are, and as far as nutrition, OMG is that a laffer, school breakfests and ESPECIALLY LUNCHES are nothing but high calorie, high fat, low nutrient garbage-like pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers…….the lumches most schools serve is garnage compared to a vending truck.

    Reply this comment
  9. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 9 March, 2012, 22:58

    I think the kids should brown bag it like everyone in my schools had to do. None of us starved. The schools shouldn’t be in the food business. It is the PARENTS responsibility to feed their kids. The poor ones get food stamps to pay for it. How long does it take to make a ham sandwich, slice a few carrot sticks, grab an apple or orange and put a piece of cake in the paper bag? 5 minutes? How long does it take to make a bowl of oatmeal with a sliced banana for the kid before he goes to school? 5 minutes? What a friggin’ spoiled society we’ve become!

    Btw, I wonder if the food servers at the schools are government employees with pensions too?

    So a dish washer and bus boy can retire with a 2.5%@55 pension too?

    Reply this comment
  10. queeg
    queeg 11 March, 2012, 08:38

    There should limits on the length and frequency of postings….a few are smothering this site with sheer pap!

    Reply this comment

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